NYC Notebook

Letter from America / TREVOR FORREST

NYC Notebook

Letter from America / TREVOR FORREST

Manhattan is inspiring. High-rises, hidden away meeting places, and the family style living of Brooklyn, give NYC a lifeblood unlike any other city I know.

Paris, London, Berlin, Budapest. European cities. They all have interior cultures and a full range of seasons, but this strange and wonderful city is a city for our times. The weather and politics ebb and flow in the same way, terrorism is met with the wrath of national security. Monolithic Manhattan buildings covered in historical Masonic symbolism. Glass that bounces the bright, clean light around the streets, and the busy international population that fill them seem to frame a story in every angle.

Living in NYC means that after work all my days off are in NYC!

­NYC is also an easy jumping-off point to travel to any other part of America. Los Angeles in the same time it takes to drive from London to Cornwall. Or the far north of Alaska and Calgari. To the deserts of Utah and the snow-covered aspens in the mountains of Colorado. For someone who enjoys how the power of locations add to the drama of a story it’s remarkable. Whilst all the time being close to home, which helps with family life.

Weather on the East coast

This place has seasons, and for a cinematographer this is a treat. Snow, ice and heavy skies in the winter (except during El Nino). Crisp, piercing light in spring. Golden light of autumn. The baking heat and texture of the city in the summer. These conditions so often take a part of the character in a film or story. The city heat in Scorsese and Spike Lee films. The cold streets of Woody Allen films that push the characters indoors, into salubrious interiors that are typical in this city.

Tribeca Film Festival

I first came to NYC after the Tribeca best cinematography win for Una Noche in 2012. It helped put me on the map and a gave me the defining press package to get the O1 Visa that you need for work as a ‘Talented Alien’. My launch pad to American collaborations. In NYC life has taken over. But almost by accident it has provided a great location to grow into Hollywood, while maintaining a UK and European client base.

01 Visas and some practical help

A lot of people have asked me in the last couple of years who I recommend to help with this process. Protea International Management have been amazing. From initial help and advice with Visas, to setting up bank accounts and calculating taxes with the UK based tax office. I have recommended them many times. Adrian Duciuc runs the office and is always open to speculative conversations for those who are curious about the process and what is changing this year. Because there is always something that changes.


The New York office of BAFTA celebrates British filmmakers in the Eastern USA. The programme that chairman Luke Parker Bowles and CEO Julie Brasserie have executed this past year has transformed this out-post. They have brought, and continue to bring, British talent to the forefront here in NYC and introduce their achievements to America. The reflection of British craft in cinema, games and TV all have a home here.


……is fast being controlled by companies that manage social media and market data. In its infancy it was dry and uninteresting. Now we see this industry hunting out filmmaker’s with a talent for storytelling on longer projects. A new addition to this business is the new breed of financial giants meeting tech start-ups who can become powerhouses of possibility for anyone with an idea who can execute it and keep it relevant.

This in turn has pushed the established giant brands to join the new wave for this type of project. Take Wieden + Kennedy Nike ‘Margot vs Lily’, with writing and direction from Jesse Andrews and Alfonso Gomez-Rejon (of Me, Earl And The Dying Girl fame). General Motors have created Technology Of The Future TV series with Spielberg and Ron Howard. This is great for filmmakers of longform storytelling. Advertising now needs a cinematic visual storytelling.

The small screen production

This is booming in New York, led by the $900 million in film tax relief they have here. I remember the poster campaign that was running, asking New Yorkers to welcome production companies to the area because of what it added to income to the city helping public facilities and services.

NYC collective

I have found New York to be a very inclusive and collaborative place. From a variety of fellow filmmakers, writers, producers, cinematographers. The common denominator is that we are bonded by creativity and a business energy that comes from this place, love it or hate it. New York is a collective of people and companies making-things-happen.

Some of the colleagues I now call friends like Charles Randolph (Oscar winning writer of The Big Short), and showrunner. Director Patty Jenkins (Exposed, which was line produced by Charles). Jose Rivera, awarded playwright, screenwriter and regular collaborator of director Walter Salles, and Lance Accord ASC. Chiemi Karasawa, documentary director and connector of even more talented people. Ellen Kuras ASC. Producer Bob Salerno (Tom Ford’s longtime collaborator). IATSE Local 600. Panavision NYC. ARRI CSC. AbelCine. All of these have made this place feel like home. This collective is constantly added to by the friends that come to shoot or pass through from Europe or LA, which adds to the energy that is NYC.

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